Somewhere amongst my love of all things hardcore, heavy or melodic Rise Against once sat.
Then in the mid 2000s as the band rose to public attention, the sound went from that of angry young punks, to a bunch of blokes who had found a formula that earned someone money (and if you think your favourite artists are making money off albums, in the main you are sadly mistaken), dulling the social and political questions that Rise Against were great at. With the release of the bands last album Wolves, there was an audible change towards their older style.
This new album promises to continue the band’s search for answers in a more aggressive (read: traditional punk) vein as they once did earlier in their career. Wasting no time at all, The Numbers gets straight to the point with a snarl that is open in its front foot attack of the American political chaos of the last 10-15 years.
This theme continues as the hardcore wagon crosses the political themes again with Broken Dreams Inc., questioning the validity of the American Dream in 2021, and Talking to Ourselves, aiming to lift the spirits, but reminding the listener that there is a time when protest is required to get those in power to listen. Meanwhile, the title track is a call to arms for people of all ages, a reminder that music of all kinds brings us together on one level or another.
All of this hardcore punk is great, and the only thing that could ruin the spirit of it is a ballad. Just when the album has this old punk smiling at the welcome signs of defiance that helped get me through my youth with a reckless abandon, Forfeit comes in to create a little drama (or allow us older punks to catch our breath?) and drag down the positive mood that has been the opening tracks to this album. If it was a minute and a half interlude it might fit right in but at nearly four minutes long, it is all kinds of drawn out.
Thankfully this lull isn’t enduring to the second half of the album. The closest it gets is the middle of the road rock of Sooner or Later, a song that is more The Offspring than Minor Threat. It settles into radio rock territory before Tim McIlrath lets his best roar out to wake the listener from dozing and the pace of the track picks up.
I don’t typically read press releases that come with some releases because they are PR fluff, but for once amongst all the self-congratulating the most fitting comment to explain the album can be found, courtesy of vocalist and main songwriter McIlrath, perfectly summing up the album – “I’ve come to realize that people want honesty and that music can be a catalyst for change. I think in many ways, we’ve been on a mission to rile people up, and I feel very lucky to be able to do that. Our hope on this record is to jostle people awake, even it if makes you uncomfortable.” Success then.
This album sets out to do something and manages in the main to achieve exactly that. There was a time in music that musicians everywhere were asking questions and passing social commentary like those wrapped up in this album, it warms me that more bands are again getting back to shaking the platform a little.
1. The Numbers
2. Sudden Urge
3. Nowhere Generation
4. Talking to Ourselves
5. Broken Dreams Inc.
8. Sounds Like
9. Sooner or Later
10. Middle of a Dream
11. Rules of Play